A Married Friend, On The Edge of the Divorce Cliff

man on cliff

As an outspoken advocate for father’s rights and someone who is open about the journey of my separation, divorce and post-divorce life, I have found that many men — and women — who are either facing a divorce or are already in the thick of things come to me for advice and a sympathetic shoulder. I’m always willing to help with whatever insight I can, always hoping for the best and happy to offer a tiny gleam of light in what can be a dark, lonely place.

That’s what is happening with a friend I met for coffee a few days ago. It’s almost a worst case scenario where he, his wife and their two young children are moving to a small college town in Georgia. With less than three weeks to go, she dropped the bombshell that she wants them to get separate places and start planning for divorce. There’s no time left to delay the relocation either because their house is already sold and they’re moving for a big career opportunity for her, good timing or not.

And he’s reeling.

There isn’t a single event that’s precipitating the divorce, just a general ennui, a dissatisfaction on the wife’s part that married life isn’t what she expected and that rather than work on making their relationship more fulfilling, she wants to just pull the plug and get out. Children be damned, out, and out now.

Is that a rational justification for divorce, for tearing asunder a family and adversely impacting children for years to come? Does it matter?

Gad Saad PhD shares in Psychology Today that almost 70% of divorces are now initiated by the wife. Seventy percent. So it’s no surprise that his wife is the one who has found the relationship unsatisfying and wants to quit. That’s the common story of divorce now.

Underlying my friend’s situation is something far more problematic. I believe that there’s now a prevailing myth in modern Western culture that has women as victims. Divorce because the woman is unhappy is common because women are just trying to survive in a dangerous male-oriented culture and don’t feel safe in the presence of their husbands or find another man to be more nurturing or simply believe they’d be happier solo.

Even the coverage of the shooting tragedy at UC Santa Barbara has quickly morphed from a story about a boy with mental illness who was unable to handle rejection to a story about how all women are victims of us men. The so-called #YesAllWomen hashtag with its “goal of making people aware of the serious threats one faces just for being a woman in 2014 America”, as Emily Shire explains it. In this day and age, far too many women are being taught that they’re victims of men, and with that as a prevailing perspective, it’s no surprise at all that this bleeds over to dysfunctional relationships, self-fulfilling failed marriages, acrimonious divorces and “blended” families. To my friend’s situation and the divorce cliff he’s being pushed over, quite unwillingly.

I don’t want to trivialize the challenges each of us faces in our adolescence and adult lives, male or female, straight or gay, rich or poor, but with divorce the real victims aren’t the adults, it’s the children. Moving cross country is difficult enough, but now that the parents are splitting up en route, in the new city his children will end up with two separate places and no friends, no other family. About the most difficult transition I can possibly imagine children trying to cope with. It breaks my heart.

Sometimes life just pushes ahead, though, and it’s about coping. My friend can’t stop the move and he can’t convince her that they should keep trying to make the relationship work once they’ve made it to Georgia. The only thing he can do is focus all his energy on creating the safest possible container within which the children can hopefully survive what’s going to be a terribly turbulent journey.

And the rest of us will just hope for the best, both for his children and for all of us on this journey…

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